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Grid of different images from TikTok and Youtube Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon

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The extremely specific content creators we discovered this year

We fell down many internet wormholes

We all have our favorite fandoms and hobbies — the communities that give our free time meaning, bond us to a group of friends, and introduce us to new things. Some of these fanbases are so large and vocal they have names, like BTS Army, Beyoncé’s Beyhive, or Twihards (Twilight megafans). But some of us — especially those who are more terminally online — have fallen down a few internet wormholes that are a little more niche, becoming sucked into very specific content.

Maybe it’s a YouTube account dedicated to a cult-favorite film, a supernatural webcomic, or any number of extremely specific Twitch streamers or TikTokers. We know there are some extremely specific content creators and accounts you probably follow — and so Polygon wanted to share a few of our own favorites from this past year.

A silicone company that mixes colors on a massive press

@ycsiliconeproducts

Fluorescent yellow + pink + black =? I am full of expectations for this combination. Rubber mixing to produce silicone molds#silisonemould #factory

♬ original sound - friedapatty

I’ve always hated auditory ASMR — the sound of someone whispering into a microphone basically makes me want to throw up. Even thinking about it as I write this, yikes. But watching satisfying content is absolutely my jam, and TikTok videos by ycsiliconeproducts just tick all of the boxes. The machinery makes the silicone look like a delicious yet colorful pasta dough, or some other extremely malleable substance.

On each whirl, the color deposits a little more. There’s this beautiful marbling, where it looks like putting a paintbrush into a cup of cast-off water. To mix it more, the operator will cut away a piece to fold back in or simply wind the whole thing into a roll, before sticking it back into the machine lengthwise. It’s incredibly meditative to watch, despite being a video in which a person operates heavy machinery. There’s a rhythm to the folding and rolling and color depositing, and many of the videos have classical music as their audio.

Not only have I learned about how silicone products are molded and mixed (I’ve always wondered how that works, since silicone is flexible and heat-resistant, I’ve also become convinced that this is a new skill that I could totally pull off, and one I could definitely do without crushing either of my hands. —Nicole Clark

The YouTube channel dedicated exclusively to Waterworld

Imagine a Hollywood blockbuster about the catastrophic ramifications of global warming that was so popular Universal Studios theme parks across the world have been performing live variations of its stage show for over 25 years. Reader, it exists! Waterworld is a criminally underrated action film set on a future planet Earth, covered in ocean water following the melting of the polar ice caps. Were it released today, the film would have an army of mega fans, filling social media with spiderwebs of theories and fan-fic.

One YouTube channel is singlehandedly doing the work of a subreddit of fans. The Atoll has, as of writing, published 39 videos, averaging nearly one a month since the channel launched three years ago. The channel focused on reviews of Waterworld toys, but has since expanded in every possible direction, including a nearly 30-minute video essay on the theme park stunt show, a thorough explainer of the film’s urine purification system, and a breakdown of the differences, additions, and inconsistencies within the Waterworld novelizations — followed by a complete recording of the Waterworld audio book.

The Atoll’s audience is modest but that hasn’t deterred the channel. It’s only gotten better. The creator has improved the audio quality, done an abundance of research, and strengthened their video editing chops. A month ago, the channel posted a 42-minute history of the Exxon Valdez Oil Tanker and its function in the creation and mythology of Waterworld.

I was obsessed with this silly film as a kid, wearing out the VHS as if it were a Disney classic. And here at The Atoll I have found even more to love with this movie that most of the world has forgotten. That’s one of the great pleasures of the internet, right? Finding out you’re not alone. —Chris Plante

This purebred horse farm in the Netherlands

The nice thing about having taken your Horse Girl brand to a professional level is that nobody blinks when you say things like “So I’ve been following this Dutch horse breeding stable on YouTube.” Friesian Horses uploads a daily video on the life and logistics of the stable’s purebred Friesian mares. Most of the time, it’s stuff like foals frolicking in a meadow, but sometimes it’s a 10-minute peek into the buckwild world of Horse Dentistry. Channel host Yvonne delivers loving and informative commentary on everything from the horses’ physical needs and social behaviors, to the stable’s day-to-day chores.

As a breed, ebon-colored Friesians are known for being charismatic as hell, making them a favorite of Hollywood productions for their striking looks and easy temperaments. So watching a bunch of them zoom around a field is enough of a delight. But this year the channel’s real star (no pun intended) has been a little colt named Rising Star, who is not a Friesian even a little bit.

His mother died giving birth to him on the same day that Friesian Horses’ star mare, Uniek, delivered a stillborn foal. Horses aren’t always the most eager foster parents, and attempts at mare and foal introductions can even be dangerous to the foal. But the channel’s most viewed video (CW: animal death, animal discomfort), and the one that hooked me on it, is incredibly compelling footage of Uniek stamping in eagerness to love all over this awkward, bright orange baby. —Susana Polo

Fountain pens and the search for the perfect paper

Fountain pen users are particular about their tools, and we’ve amassed a semi-large community on YouTube, Twitch, and other social media. There are so many different fountain pens to try, each of which has its own attributes and characteristics. It’s almost impossible to try them all yourself — and that’s without including any variation in ink. Fountain pen communities on YouTube are a way for fountain pen users to share their love of the tool with each other — to test out supplies and search for the newest holy grail item.

One of my favorite fountain pen YouTube channels is called Inky Rocks, where the content creator (who also goes by Inky Rocks) goes deep into different aspects of the hobby: inks, pens, and nibs included. The thought-out, stylized videos often feature gorgeous rocks and close-up shots of inks mixing with water. She’s testing out inks in such a thorough way that I actually learn things when watching her videos.

My favorite new Inky Rocks video is a recent one that documents a nightmare that rolled through the community. OK, so, there’s this one paper brand that everyone likes: Tomoe River. The paper is so thin — like Bible pages — yet even massive amounts of ink don’t bleed through it. We’re all so obsessed with the paper that we know what machines they’re made on, and that one machine produces better paper than the other. The short summary is that there was a community panic when news broke that the company was moving on from their paper and selling production capabilities to another company.

If you want the long version of that story, with super-secret paper samples “obtained” by Inky Rocks, you’ll just have to watch that video. Do we still need to hoard packs of the old Tomoe River paper? You’ll have to decide for yourself. —Nicole Carpenter

Just your basic gay werewolf politics webcomic

For the past several years, I’ve been following How to Be a Werewolf, a webcomic originally billed to me as a queer coming-of-age story full of werewolves. It isn’t exactly that — there’s a slow-burn gay romance in the wings, and other queer characters in warm and loving relationships, but the focus really isn’t on romance. Right at the moment (meaning, for many many months of webcomic time now), it’s mostly about werewolf politics, as an old, established werewolf and his pack try to muscle in on a much younger one, led by a girl who’s only beginning to control her powers. It’s a little bit soap opera and a little bit world-building comic that’s still slowly rolling out details about what magic means and who the people are in this setting.

But the plot arcs so far, about abusive parenting (mostly about misuse of magic), self-discovery (mostly about werewolf powers), and friendship (mostly between werewolves, witches, and more), have been measured and thoughtful, alternating snarly action with a lot of good-natured people trying to do their best for each other. Writer-artist Shawn Lenore has put a ton of vivid color and intense action into this series from the start, but what keeps me coming back are the ways the characters support and care for each other. There’s plenty of physical and emotional violence; this isn’t a warm-fuzzies hangout comic, but it is one where people respect and listen to each other in ways that make the whole series a comfort read for me. —Tasha Robinson

A Pizzazz frozen pizza cooker fan account

It all started on a fateful day in August, when TikTok user pizzazzmaster bought an ostensibly single-use kitchen gadget. Let’s say the reception was a little rocky. “My girlfriend told me this is the stupidest thing I have ever bought in my life, and she’s going to throw it away when we move in together,” said pizzazzmaster in his first post. “So I made a page completely dedicated to it. Enjoy.”

Man, have I enjoyed it. The Pizzazz is truly multi-dimensional; it can obviously perfectly prepare a frozen pizza, but it also has been up to the task of baking cookies, crisping bacon, and even making tasty-looking chicken strips (!!). The best part? I can’t even eat most of this stuff, since I’m severely lactose intolerant. I’m here just to support this man’s passion. Because we’ve all been there, buying that single-use product that no one else in our apartment wants.

Maybe it’s a Belgian waffle maker — the one that flips over, like at a hotel breakfast buffet — that sits unused, or maybe it’s a smaller gadget, like one of those strawberry top removers. Me and my 758k closest friends (the other TikTok followers of pizzazzmaster) are not here to step on your single-use gadget parade, we’re here to celebrate with you. Anyway, it’s only single-use if you aren’t trying hard enough. —Nicole Clark

Animatronics with no real purpose other than to look cool

This year, more than any other, I leaned into my YouTube viewing in a big way. I picked up more channels from different creators than any year previous, and I’m now carrying around about 80 channels that I check in with, on a regular basis. Most of that content has to do with miniature painting, a hobby that I dove in on prior to lockdown. But some of it is just … weird. Weird vehicles. Weird swords. Weird airplanes. Weird guns. And now, weird animatronics.

Danny Huynh is a robot builder who got served up to me via the algorithm this year. So far I’ve seen him create animatronic xenomorphs, drift cars, and Tiny Tina in a mech. As a builder of mostly plastic models, over the years, I have no idea how any of this stuff works, but I look forward to seeing whatever it is that this amazing artist decides to create next. —Charlie Hall